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    Biographer and blogger Nicholas Murray (whose excellent books include A Corkscrew is Most Useful, Aldous Huxley and Kafka) brings my attention to some words of wisdom from Michael Holroyd:

    The grand old man of English literary biography, Michael Holroyd, was holding forth in The Guardian at the weekend on the collapse of literary biography as a result of publishers and booksellers giving up on it. The word "literary", he said, "is death to sales -- and perhaps literary biography is worst of all." He concluded -- and who can contradict this: "Publishers seem to outsiders to be paralysed by caution in these difficult times, asking themselves what sold last year and hoping to reproduce it. How often have I heard them say: 'this book did not sell.' I have never heard them say: 'we did not sell this book.'" To which I would add that phrases like "no one wants to buy a long Russian novel about a woman who ends up throwing herself in front of a train" become self-fulfilling prophecies. If a publisher says that no one wants to buy X then that is exactly what will happen (more...)

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